New year, same old me

I have set broad New Year goals for myself each year I’ve been blogging, with some success!  I know goals are supposed to be specific, attainable, and measurable in order to succeed, but somehow I find broad overarching goals are more attainable and easier for me to remember.  For example, my goal of eating less and moving more is way more attainable than working out three times per week and eating 5 servings of vegetables per day.  My life isn’t that rigid and I’m much more inclined to actually follow through if there is less pressure.

Does that make sense?  I guess what I’m trying to say is, the more specific I make my goals, the less attainable and more stressful they become

In any case, I thought a lot about my goals for this year.  I have the standard big goals like getting a job, moving into a house, etc., but I also feel like I need something more.  Some way to improve my life and to extend myself.  So I came up with a list.  I hope to accomplish some of these this year, but the real goal is to at least start on these before I’m 30.

  1. Attend a concert in a new venue with a band I’ve never seen before.
  2. Get my thesis published.
  3. Create a morning and bedtime routine that reduce stress and can easily be incorporated into my life.
  4. Volunteer for an organization working with animals.
  5. Reduce meat consumption and maximize vegetable consumption.
  6. Keep a sketchbook journal and start creating.
  7. Attend a photography class and practice honing my skills.
  8. Send letters/cards/notes to the people I love.
  9. Join a recreational sports team.
  10. Practice cooking more Asian food.

Whew!  That’s a tough list, but I think I should be able to get to most of them over the next three years.  I’ll check back in throughout the year and mark my progress.

Do you have any New Years resolutions?  What goals have you had the most success with in the past?

-Mads

OKMH: Christmas Gifts!

OKMH Collage 2013

Top Row:  Allison , Beka & JeanneCenter: KatKirsten, Bottom Row: Mads & Megan.

To polish off 2013, my lovely blogger friends decided to send Christmas packages to each other.  I love our tradition of sending goodies in the mail so much, especially because it feels like we’re not so far away.

This holiday season, Allison sent me a big box of goodies.  I was waiting all year for a box from her because she has been whipping up homemade marshmallows and I’m officially the last person to taste her wonderful mallows!  They did not disappoint…perfect cranberry marshmallows that are gooey, fluffy, sweet, and tart perfection.

The only snap before the mallows were demolished.

The only snap before the mallows were demolished.

Allison must know I spend most of my days running to and from various jobs without a lot of meal time because she got me an insulated lunch box with cute Tupperware for meals on the go!  Little does she know, she’ll be joining the club soon when she starts her graduate program this year!

lunch box

To fill the lunch box, she also included Happy Hippo hazelnut biscuits (Yum) and chocolate kale.  I’m sorry friends, the chocolate kale horrifies me.  I still haven’t tried it, but I’m hoping to conquer my fears in 2014.  She also included a bottle opener, no doubt to fuel my beer-drinking habits.

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If that wasn’t enough, she also sent me a gorgeous turquoise scarf!  It’s beautiful!  I love it so hard.

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I have a severe scarf obsession and wore it almost the entire time I was in Minnesota for the holidays.  I can’t wait for more cold weather to wear it again.  Beauty!

Thanks so much for the thoughtful gifts, Allison.  If you haven’t read her blog yet, you should.  She writes about adventures in running, parenting a 5 year old who loves glitter, whipping up fabulous meals for her family, and so much more.

Check out what I sent Kirsten here!

What was your favorite gift this holiday season? 

-Mads

PUMPKIN WEEK: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting

*please excuse the pictures in this post.  I decided to make this cake at night after a few glasses of wine.  

Hello hello,

It’s time for another rendition of theme weeks and this week is brought to you by pumpkin!  (insert pumpkin foofaraw here)  Truth be told, it’s still 80 degrees in SoCal right now, so my mind is not registering “Pumpkin Week” quite yet.  However, in the spirit of team camaradarie, I decided to join the party with a pumpkin spice cake.

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I know you’re probably thinking, “Pumpkin spice cake?  Yawn.”  But let me tell you, this cake is a delicate balance of pumpkin, spices, and sweetness that you will want to add to your repertoire of “classic” recipes.

Now, in researching pumpkin spice cake, I found there were not many variations in recipes.  Some called for buttermilk or sour cream to moisten things up, but I felt like the pumpkin would create enough moisture on its own.  Other recipes went crazy on spices, but I wanted to let the pumpkin shine through.

This cake turned out perfect!  The cake was full of flavor and the sweetness of the maple frosting balanced with the spiciness of the cake.  I am definitely making this again for Thanksgiving.

For the cake, you will need:

  • 1.5 sticks softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside (flour, baking soda, salt, spices).

The finest of supermarket spices.

The finest of supermarket spices.

Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until combined.  Add eggs one at a time and vanilla.  Beat until creamy.

wet pumpkin ingredients

Then add the canned pumpkin until just combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Pour batter into greased bundt pan (or use my pal, Comfortably Domestic’s handy baking pan conversion chart).  Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes (check with a toothpick).

pumpkin batter

For the frosting, you will need:

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbsp. maple syrup (I used the real maple syrup.  You might want to taste as you go if you are using the imitation stuff because it’s a little stronger.)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Wait until the cake has cooled completely.

Beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and syrup together until creamy.

Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until it is as sweet as you would like.  I think I stopped at 3.5 cups, but I was eye-balling it.  I should stop doing that when I’m developing a recipe, but whatever.

Spread the frosting over the entire cake until it’s as perfect or messy as you like.  Mine was rather messy, as you can see.

frosted cake

-Mads

Please check out the other wonderful recipes for Pumpkin Week!

Monday:

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Streusel Bread

Tuesday:
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Pumpkin Pie Macarons
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Hazelnut Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter

Wednesday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Mini No-Bake Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Crumble Topping
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Pumpkin Marshmallows & Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Creamy Maple Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

Thursday:
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Pumpkin Doughnuts with Cream Cheese Icing & Candied Pepitas
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Friday:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Savory Pumpkin Tart
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Pumpkin Mousse with Candied Squash
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Saturday:
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Scones
Monica @ The Grommom – Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pug Update

Hello internet,

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve posted about Josie, so here’s an update for you.

St. Pugtrick's Day with our little family.

St. Pugtrick’s Day with our little family.

She swallowed a palm tree seed (a big one), which got stuck in her stomach and basically blocked her up.  She had to have an emergency surgery, but the recovery went really well.  Around the same time, she was stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock.  She passed out on the living room floor and her breathing got very shallow.  Luckily, we drove to the vet at the speed of sound and she bounced back fairly quickly.

Needless to say, we have had some major health scares with Josie in 2013 and I’m so thankful she’s still with us.  I have to admit she has benefited greatly from “mommy guilt” these past few months.  She’s been getting extra treats, extra love, extra playtime…you name it!

Josie (left) and Bailey (right) hanging out on the slide.

Josie (left) and Bailey (right) hanging out on the slide.

For St. Patrick’s Day, we took her and her best pug pal, Bailey, to a pug meetup event at a local doggy daycare.

They had toys, jungle gym equipment, and even a little water feature for the pups to swim in!

Josie was not sure about the swimming pool.

Josie was not sure about the swimming pool.

If you don’t know this already, pugs are one of the goofiest breeds of dogs out there.  They love to make people laugh, they look ridiculous, and they roll around snorting all day long.  To see a group of 20 pugs roaming around a jungle gym was one of the most glorious things of my life.

Most of the pugs had some sort of green spirit for St. Patrick's Day, which added to the hilarity.

Most of the pugs had some sort of green spirit for St. Patrick’s Day, which added to the hilarity.

I think this lab had his fill of pugs:

Passed out pooch

Passed out pooch

We had a wonderful time playing with the pugs, but the best part was how zonked Josie was afterward.

Passed out pooch in the car.

Passed out pooch in the car.

What’s your favorite breed of dog?  How do your pets benefit from guilt?  Extra treats?  Sleeping on the bed?

-Mads

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting: Sweets for Your Sweetiepie Week!

Hello everyone!

Welcome to another themed week of goodies: Sweets for Your Sweetiepie Week!!!

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Our lovely team of rock star bloggers have put their heads together to ensure that you have a recipe to make for your loved ones this Valentines Day!

If you’ve been tuning in for a while, you know that I get amped up over any holiday and V-Day is no exception. I love an excuse to give out hugs, tell people I care about them, and most importantly to binge on chocolate and wine. This year I am in class all night, so my celebration will have to wait until the weekend. Luckily, my class is Human Sexuality, which is the most exciting class you could have on Valentines Day. 😉 I’m hoping we talk about something upbeat like fetishes or swinger parties, and not erectile dysfunction or supernumerary nipples.  Ok wait, both of those topics are great too.  I guess I’m super excited for class!  Maybe I’ll become a sex therapist?!

Anyway, I made these treats so we could enjoy ourselves all week long!

Jonathan is not a huge dessert fan, usually because he claims they are too “sweet”. But his favorite sweet to indulge in is white chocolate. We were recently at a party with a make-your-own-cupcake bar (GENIUS) and I spotted Jonathan helping himself to a few different varieties, which inspired these White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting.

Can you think of a better combo than white chocolate and raspberry? I cannot.

For the cupcakes you will need:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 oz. white chocolate bar
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips (a smidge more than 1/2 bag)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a cupcake pan or use these adorable cupcake wrappers for V-day!
tins

Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla and eggs until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the 4 oz. white chocolate bar and milk.  White chocolate has a funny way of melting, which is to say it doesn’t melt well.  It gets kind of runny and chunky, but pay that no attention.

Ghirardelli FTW!

Ghirardelli FTW!

Slowly combine the flour mixture with the butter and sugar mixture until smooth.  Try not to whip the crap out of your batter because it will harden your cupcakes.  Nobody wants a cement cupcake.  Be GENTLE!

batter

Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the batter until creamy.  Then add your 8 oz. of chocolate chips.

The extra white chocolate chips tossed in at the end really give this recipe an extra oompf of creamy white chocolate flavor!

Double white chocolate intensity

Double white chocolate intensity

Pour the batter into the greased cupcake pan.

filled 2

Bake at 375 degrees for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before moving to the frosting stage.

For the frosting you will need:

  • 1 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp raspberry jam

Whip together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, whipping cream, and pinch of salt until it looks like frosting (about 30 seconds on high).

frosting

Then add the raspberry jam and mix it into the frosting with a rubber scraper.  If you are lucky, your friend Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head will send you a giant jar of delicious homemade raspberry, cranberry, and cherry jam for you to use in this recipe. If you aren’t lucky, you will walk with your head hung in shame to the grocery store to get sub par jam.

Thank you, Jeanne!

Thank you, Jeanne!

If raspberries are in season, it might be fun to make a raspberry compote to use in the frosting instead of jarred jam. I didn’t do this because raspberries were $4 when I created this recipe.

Spread the frosting evenly over the cupcakes and top with fresh raspberries or sprinkles.  These cupcakes were divine and got the stamp of approval from the hubby and my coworkers!  Num!

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

What are you making for Valentine’s Day this year?  What are your plans this holiday?

-Mads

Please check out the rest of the sweets on other blogs throughout the week! These bloggers are fearless bakers and make me drool on a daily basis. I hope you find something you want to make for your sweetheart!

Sunday:

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

New year: Same old me

Hello internet!

I hope your holiday season was relaxing, joyful, and filled with friends and food.

Mine certainly was!

Happy 2013!!!

Happy 2013!!!

I like to set 1 or 2 fairly general goals for my new year resolutions.  If I get too specific, I usually abandon it after a week or two.  Specific goals are good for work projects, but for an entire year of behavior, I find broad topics are more useful to me.  Whatever floats your boat.

My previous resolutions:
2010-Get involved in an online community
2011-Get to know California
2012-Eat less and move more

I have succeeded in all of those goals!  In fact, last year I lost 23 pounds just by eating less and moving more (only a few of which I gained back during the holidays…woops).

This year’s resolutions are as follows:
1) Continue my journey of eating less and moving more.  It is a habit already, but I want to make sure I don’t slip back into old patterns of Eating All The Things.
2) Don’t become a couch potato.  I’m going to try to do 1 new and exciting thing per month.  Examples of this include attending a concert, visiting a museum, hiking in a new spot, etc.

With school and work, I became a home-body last semester.  Instead of going out and living life, I stayed home and soaked up every spare minute of couch time I could find.  The blog suffered big time because sitting on the couch is not fun to write about or read about.

This year, the “do 1 new and exciting thing per month” goal is really an effort to prevent myself from shriveling up into a couch potato during my downtime.

What are your resolutions for 2013?  Did you keep your resolutions from last year?

-Mads

One Kitchen Many Hearts: Secret Santa

Happy holidays, my fine internet friends!

It’s time for another One Kitchen Many Hearts (OKMH) post from my sisters around the internet:

OKMH pic

Top left to bottom right: Me, Kirsten, Megan, Jeanne, Allison, and Kat

The holidays at our house were filled with family, holiday ham, presents, and Christmas jammies.  It has also been filled with runny noses, which did not bring out much holiday cheer in myself or my husband.  But nothing could have warmed my heart more than opening my Secret Santa OKMH box from my friend Jeanne (aka Inside NanaBread’s Head)!!!

Guess who?

Guess who?

There were squees of delight happening all over Twitter and Facebook when I found the box in my apartment.  The package arrived right after finals week had destroyed me, so the timing was perfect.

When I opened it up, my jaw about fell off my face.

secret okmh

Can’t you feel the love spilling out of every inch of this box and through the computer screen?  I mean, really.  There was so much care an attention paid to the details of this box that I wanted to fly to Texas just to give Jeanne a hug!

Somehow she remembered that my previous Christmas was void of any real decorations, so she MADE ME A TREE FULL OF HAND CRAFTED ORNAMENTS.  My heart grew 3 times that day.

Josie ran over and instinctively knew there was something in the box for her.  I thought she was charging over to eat the ornaments, but she simply grabbed the squeaky toy meant for her and went about her business.  It was hilarious!  I wish I had a better picture or even a video of that moment, but alas, this is all I have:

secret okmh

I immediately put the ornaments up.  They are all adorable, but here are some of my absolute favorites:

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Love penguins? An owl holding a Christmas tree? Josie the pug?  C’mon!  Too cute!

Jeanne also found some goodies that were perfect to warm up our holiday season:

Nums

Nums

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This gingerbread candle is amazeballs and has been burning every day since we got it! I highly recommend this scent as a holiday gift.

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I painted my nails Christmas red.

She also included a homemade batch of the best gingerbread cookies in the world.  Jonathan doesn’t usually like desserts (wha?), but he was asking for these cookies like crazy.

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Jeanne made our Christmas extra Christmas-y this year, which was really the best gift I could have asked for.  Without snow on the ground and my family close by, it was really special to have some new traditions to start with my new family.

Thank you, Jeanne!

What was your favorite gift this holiday season?  What is your favorite tradition for Christmas?

-Mads

p.s. Check out what I gave Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver.  To sneak a peek at what the other ladies got, visit Tenaciously Yours, Decadent Philistines Save the World, and Comfortably Domestic.